Thursday, June 28, 2012

Phantasm Pinball!

Ever since I was a young boy, I've played the silver ball,
'But these ones have blades and drills and nail you to the wall
And now they're chasing me down the Mausoleum hall
I tell you, that Tall Man sure has some scary balls!

Here's something cool I ran across that I had to share with you guys. As if you need something else to waste time doing online, it's Phantasm Pinball! It amazes me that the Tall Man, possessor of the scariest balls in any dimension, has never inspired a real live pinball game. You'd think a movie featuring killer flying silver spheres would be a natural translation. Fear not though, Newgrounds has a flash version that's downright addictive. Just click on that picture below to be magically transported to horror pinball heaven. Time to put that supple wrist to work and see if you play a good game boooooooooooooy!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Review: Countess Perverse

Portions of this review originally appeared at

Richard Connell’s story The Most Dangerous Game, originally published in 1924, has been adapted for the silver screen many, many times. In almost every version, at least one character spends some time hiding in the bushes. I dare say, however, that there has never been an adaptation that can match the sheer amount of bush in Jess Franco’s Countess Perverse. When I got a copy of a Jess (Jesus) Franco flick that I had never seen before to review, I knew that there was just one proper place to watch it, at Jimmy’s Backyard Drive-in. There’s nothing like getting together in the great outdoors with a bunch of fully soused movie geeks and scumbags (aka some of the Dear God No! cast and crew) over copious booze and smoked meat and watching the exploitation master do his thing, and Jesus certainly did his thing here. Countess Perverse definitely does not disappoint.

Synopsis: Really? You want a story synopsis in a Jess Franco movie? Well, ok, here it goes. Bob and Moira find a naked woman on the beach, who tells them a wild story about how she was shipwrecked on an island where she ended up at the house of Countess Ivana and Count Zabor. They took her in, fed her mysterious meat, seduced her, and then tried to kill and cook her. Some hospitality, huh? Well, it just so happens that Bob and Moira are employed by said Countess to bring her new victims/fresh meat, so they send our castaway back. Then innocent little Sylvia, played by Franco’s favorite muse Lina Romay, arrives on the scene. Three-way fun ensues, along with a little tension in the form of a love triangle. The couple takes their new plaything/guest to meet the Countess. At dinner Lina gets to sample the “wild game,” and later the Countess “samples” Lina’s wild game so to speak. I know wild game might be an awkward euphemism, but it’s fitting since she did have to trek through a jungle to find it. Anyway, later Lina stumbles across the Count and Countess about to butcher the body of the poor gal from the opening scene, and she discovers why she was brought to the island. You see, The Countess likes to hunt human prey, and it’s Lina season. They throw her out into the countryside in her birthday suit and the Countess, not quite as naked (she wears a necklace, belly chain, and quiver of arrows), sets out to kill her. Will this deadly game end with Sylvia evading Ivana’s arrows and gaining her freedom, or will she be eaten my the countess…um… again?

Truth be told, this isn’t so much a version of The Most Dangerous Game as it is a cross between that story and some of Marquis de Sade’s work, which Franco would return to throughout his career. Bob and Moira play the part of the libertines who take in and corrupt Stlvia a-la Justine or Philosophie dans le Boudoir. Despite being a mashup of two classic sources, the story is fairly thin as expected; but it’s plenty to drive 78 minutes of sleazy fun. You weren’t really expecting some deep exploration of the human condition, were you? Besides, they have to leave room for all of the sex. If you’ve ever seen a Jess Franco movie before, or even if you’re just marginally familiar with the sleaze auteur, then you know what you’re going to be getting with this one. While he would make sleazier flicks (Bare Breasted Countess, Love Letters of a Portuguese Nun, various actual porn movies), the sex and nudity is front and center here. An interesting debate could be made out of whether the sex scenes are there to fill the holes in the plot or if the plot is just there for the purpose of stringing together the sex scenes.

Some other Franco trademarks show up in this flick. The “Franco zooms” are employed, as well as his tendency to do a lot of static blocking in dialog heavy scenes. Jess made a habit of using a lot of the same actors, and most of this cast will be familiar faces to those familiar with his oeuvre. He always did have a hell of an eye for casting gorgeous women, and it shows here. Of course the late Lina Romay is breathtaking as always. Alice Arno, who plays the countess, has an exotic look that’s quite alluring, and the other ladies are certainly easy on the eyes. On the male side, we’re treated to a creepy performance from Franco regular Howard Vernon. Semi-regular Robert Woods puts in a good turn as Bob, even though we were all screaming obscenities at Bob throughout the flick. Watch it, you’ll understand. That medallion is pretty pimp though.

Another thing Jesus Franco is known for is his ability to choose great locations. The house (known as Xanadu and located on a French island according to the special features) that serves as the exterior of the Countesses abode is absolutely amazing. Architecturally, I have never seen anything like it. I want a house just like that one. Actually, it’s the same building Jess used as Soledad Miranda’s character’s house in She Killed in Ecstasy. The interiors were shot at a neighboring building, including the “red staircase” room that makes quite a few appearances throughout. The combination of these two houses makes it seem as if the interior is much larger than the exterior, lending a bizarre, slightly off kilter quality to the house. The stone staircase leading up to the house from the beach is just straight up awesome. In addition to the house itself, the area around it is stunning to look at. The crystal blue water, the sheer rock cliffs, and the serene beaches look like paradise. This has the added quality of creating a dramatic discrepancy when the killing starts. I cannot say enough about the beauty of the location and the badassery of the buildings on display in Countess Perverse, so I’ll stop trying and just show you some pictures…

See? Told you. Beautiful. I want to spend my next vacation there, crazy cannibal bow-wielding bitch or not.

The only thing I didn’t dig about the movie was the fact that there really wasn’t any gore to speak of. There’s a trickle here and there, but it’s surprisingly restrained. I expected at least a decent smattering of the red stuff considering the cannibalism and human hunting elements of the story. While Franco isn’t necessarily known for his gore, he usually didn’t exactly shy away from it either. I never thought I’d say this, but I wish Jess Franco hadn’t lapsed into good taste in this department.

Mondo Macabro has given us a great package in this DVD. When I first got into Franco’s work, it was on who-the-hell-knows-how-many generation bootleg VHS, and they looked like crap. At that time, though, that was the only way to see this stuff. Now, whenever I see a good quality print of a Franco flick, I’m blown away, and this one looks absolutely fantastic. Sometimes when new transfers are done, they go too far trying to clean it up and destroy the look of the film. Not so here. This is a perfect example of how to do a transfer. It retains that film grain and texture, it’s crystal clear, and the lush colors pop. Well done. As far as extras we’ve got some text notes about the film, filmmakers, and cast, a 15 minute interview with Robert Woods, and a 15 minute segment with critic/historian Stephen Thrower which is quite informative. In fact, I think MM should have had this guy do a commentary track. Bravo Mondo Macabro, this is the kind of love us exploitation fans love to see these flicks receive.

While I was writing this review, I did a little experiment. I had the movie playing in the background, and I made a point to look at the screen every five minutes or so. Out of a total of 13 times, I was greeted by full frontal nudity on 9 occasions. I’d say that’s a pretty good ratio, and I would expect nothing less from Jess Franco. If you don’t dig Franco, Countess Perverse isn’t going to change your mind. If you love Jess like I do, then Countess Perverse is a must own. I know I said the plot was thin, but honestly, I’ve seen much thinner in the euro-sleaze genre. Between the incredible locations and the nubile (I love that word) flesh, it’s a sumptuous feast for the eyes. Above all, it’s a blast to watch, and Mondo Macabro has given a fine flick the release it deserves. Oh, by the way; you may ask why I sometimes refer to him as Jesus and sometimes Jess. Well, it’s because it’s so much fun to make the statement “Thank you Jesus for all of the tits and ass!” Two severed thumbs up. Nathan says check it out.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Weekend(?) Upcoming Horror Flick Extravaganza: V/H/S

Rounding out this week's Upcoming Horror Flick Extravaganza is one of my most anticipated flicks of the year. I love anthologies, I love VHS, and a local Atlanta director (David Bruckner; The Signal) is involved, so this is a perfect storm to grab my interest. First of all, look at that poster. How freakin' cool is that poster? That's my favorite poster of the year so far by a long shot. I want one of those BAD. Actually, it makes me want to do something like that with my VHS collection, but I'm way too lazy for that.

Synopsis: When a group of petty criminals is hired by a mysterious party to retrieve a rare piece of found footage from a rundown house in the middle of nowhere, they soon realize that the job isn’t going to be as easy as they thought. In the living room, a lifeless body holds court before a hub of old television sets, surrounded by stacks upon stacks of VHS tapes. As they search for the right one, they are treated to a seemingly endless number of horrifying videos, each stranger than the last. Bringing together some of the top filmmakers in the game today, this wickedly conceived horror anthology sends the viewer through a gauntlet of suspense, terror, shock, and downright brutality—instantly distinguishing itself from a sea of lackluster found-footage horror flicks. The diverse and deviously creative minds behind V/H/S shatter any preconceived notions about the genre, making it feel inventive and captivating once again.

Here's the red band trailer:

Magnet is gonna be unleashing this bad boy through Magnolia On-Demand on 8/31, and in select theaters on 10/5. I, for one, can't wait.

Weekend(?) Upcoming Horror Flick Extravaganza: Rites of Spring

Next up we've got the newest release from IFC Midnight, Rites of Spring.

Synopsis: A group of kidnappers abduct the daughter of a wealthy socialite and hide out in an abandoned school in the middle of the woods. But feelings of guilt soon overtake the kidnappers, dividing the group and putting their entire plan in jeopardy. The evening further spirals out of control when their poorly chosen hideout becomes a hunting ground for a mysterious creature that requires springtime ritualistic sacrifices.

How about the trailer?
See, that wasn't even in the press release, I went and got that link special just for the Cellmates because I care...or something like that.

I think the main selling point to me is that AJ Bowen and Anessa Ramsey play the leads, and I really enjoyed their work together in The Signal. Does Rites of Spring look like your kind of flick? Then check it out when it's released Nationwide on IFC Midnight Cable VOD and Digital Outlets (SundanceNOW, iTunes, Amazon Streaming, XBOX Zune, Playstation Unlimited) on July 27, 2012.

Weekend(?) Upcoming Horror Flick Extravaganza: Branded

Hey everybody. I know I usually do this on the weekends, but I was too busy this weekend getting my mind blown and my face melted by Alice Cooper and Iron Maiden to bring you all the news about upcoming horror flicks you could ever want. That's why I'm doing it today. This also has the added benefit of letting you pretend like it's still the weekend. Wooohooo, three day weekend! Anyway, our first flick his time around is Branded.

Synopsis: BRANDED is a dark and mind-bending sci-fi thriller into a surreal, dystopian society where mega corporations have unleashed a monstrous global conspiracy to get inside our minds and keep the population disillusioned, dependent and passive. One man’s quest to unlock the truth behind the conspiracy will lead to an epic battle with the hidden forces that really control our world. BRANDED stars Ed Stoppard, Leelee Sobieski, Jeffrey Tambor, Ingeborga Dapkunaite and Max Von Sydow.

In addition to sporting a damn good cast (Max Von Sydow is the man!), This flick seems to be taking viral marketing to
a whole new level for you kids with your fancy schmancy new fangled devices. I'll let them explain...
"The BRANDED poster includes 4 unique QR codes with additional codes embedded in the film’s website, social pages, trailer and other materials. QR codes enable consumers with a smart phone and a reader app to scan a code in the BRANDED trailer or other marketing materials which will reward them by offering a deeper glimpse into the film's alternative universe of out-of-control brands, consumer gluttony and insatiable materialism through exclusive image and video content. Overall the BRANDED marketing campaign will include 100 QR codes in all. Unlock them all!

Unlock them all? Does that sound like Pokemon to anyone else? I choose you Exclusive On-set Pic! Anyway, you can go have fun with the codes at, and check out Branded when it's released on September 7th.

Monday, June 18, 2012

420 Reviews: Prometheus, Piranha 3DD, and Cabin in the Woods

Most of the time, I’m a little behind on the mainstream new releases. There are a few reasons for this. First of all, I’m not a “packed house opening night” kinda guy. You see, people have lost all respect for the experience of movie going. Therefore, I prefer to go to movies on weekdays; either at a matinee or the last showing of the night. That way there’s a lot less people talking over the damn movie and texting. Second, I’m broke, and movie ticket prices are obscene these days, so I wait for the second run $1.99 theater unless it’s something I REALLY want to see. Third, a lot of the major studio crap doesn’t interest me, so, once again, I wait until it hits the $1.99 theater. When I do get around to seeing these flicks, by the time I would be reviewing them there are a ton of reviews already out there. I don’t really see any reason to spill a lot of ink (proverbially, even though I still do a lot of my writing by hand and type it later) on a flick that has already been picked apart and analyzed to death. However, as a movie blogger, I feel like I’m not doing my job if I go see a flick and don’t say anything about it. I was debating about whether or not to write a full-fledged review about the most dissected and debated film of the summer, Prometheus, when it dawned on me what I should do.
Back in the day, before I started Son of Celluloid, I would write mini reviews on facebook. In fact, someone telling me that they were waiting on my mini review before they decided to go see a flick or not was the final kick in the ass I need to start SOC. Anyway, at that point there was a 420 character limit on status updates. Heh heh heh, 420. As you Cellmates know, if you get me on the topic of horror movies it’s hard to shut me up. It became an interesting challenge to sum up my thoughts on a flick in 420 characters. It’s not as easy as you think, but it was kinda fun, like a word puzzle. Therefore, I’ve decided that with mainstream (major studio, theatrically released) movies that I’m a little late to the party on and have already been analyzed to kingdom come, I’m gonna start posting these types of reviews. Each will be exactly 420 characters including spaces. I’ll still ramble about indie flicks or a major flick that I have something to say about, but most of the Hollywood fright fare will probably be done this way, at least for a while. Actually, I think I’m gonna call this new feature “420 Reviews” just to confuse the hell out of the stoners. So, here are the first round of Old School Facebook Style “420 Reviews” for your reading pleasure…
Those disappointed by Prometheus must be victims of unrealistic expectations. It’s a visually stunning scifi epic that works on its own; the Alien connection is just the icing on the cake. No, it isn’t scary, but like most great scifi, it’s both a fun adventure and thought provoking. That final scene felt forced though. A great flick if you don’t go in expecting Alien. Ridley’s still got it. 2 severed thumbs up.

Piranha 3DD:
Not as good as I hoped, not as bad as I feared. The blood and tits are back, but the gore wasn’t quite as over the top, and the tits don’t measure up to Gianna Michaels & Kelly Brook in the first. The Hoff was hilarious though, and the Gary Busey/Clu Gulager duo needs its own movie. Jon Gulagher is progressing as a director. Didn’t blow me away like I was hoping, but it was still quite fun. 1 severed thumb up.


 Cabin in the Woods:
One big inside joke for horror geeks. I dug the references, I dug the Lovecraftian elements, I dug the stoner being the badass, and I loved the “every monster you can imagine” ending. I do think if you’re going meta on the horror genre, you should have a little more of old faithful, aka gore and nudity. My main complaint; the CGI looked TERRIBLE! I’m not a Whedon fan, but this was killer. 1 ½ severed thumbs up.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Review: Father's Day

I’ve been hearing about Astron-6’s flick Father’s Day for a while now. Part of that hype is due to the fact that this movie has more kick ass posters than I have ever seen one flick have. Seriously, google “Father’s Day Poster” and marvel at the sheer amount of awesome. It’s gotten shining reviews from the horror community and been the subject of its fair share of gossip regarding the details of Troma’s distribution of the movie. I figured today would be the perfect day to check it out. Yeah, I know, reviewing Father’s Day on Father’s Day is cheesy as hell, but that’s how I roll. Anyway, to say that it lived up to my expectations would be an extreme understatement. It’s bloody, it’s fun, it’s subversive, and it just might be the best safe sex commercial I’ve ever seen.

The story: “The urban legend known as 'The Father's Day Killer' began some years after the demise of serial rapist/murderer Chris Fuchman. Since the 1970s, the use of contraceptives has tripled in North America alone and a generation of fathers fell asleep with the covers pulled tight, buttocks clenched. The story has become a fire-side cautionary ritual on camping trips, often used by fathers to warn their sons of the dangers of unplanned pregnancy. That deep seeded fear of penetration, violation and eventually death waned as the murder and rape of fathers continued to decline all over the world. Unfortunately those numbers didn't remain low, and it would seem that the legend is not yet complete…

Ahab, a man obsessed with exacting a brutal, violent revenge on the man who murdered his dad, joins John, an eager priest and Twink, a hot-headed street hustler on an epic quest to find and defeat this mythical monster known as Chris Fuchman AKA The Father's Day Killer.”

I finally felt the nostalgia wave that is at the heart of throwback cinema during the first minute of this film. You see, I was born in 1980 and didn’t get into horror movies until the 90’s. I wasn’t around for the heyday of drive-in or grindhouse cinema. I have a great appreciation for those forms of cinema presentation, but I never saw a double feature with trailers and concession commercials at the drive in or barely visible, beat to shit prints at a grindhouse theater. I love seeing those nods to how they did things before my time, but you can’t be nostalgic about something you weren’t around for. Actually, scratch that. You can. We call people who are nostalgic for things they never really experienced “hipsters,” and hipsters should all have their balls (or tits as the case may be) gnawed off by rabid weasels. Anyway, what I did experience in my early horror fan days was VHS distributor logos and late night TV. When the movie opens with Astron-6’s VHS style logo (ala Wizard or Vestron or Media, etc.) and goes into a faux announcement of the night’s movie line up, I got that twinge of nostalgia that fourty/fiftysomething viewers must get watching grindhouse throwbacks. Thank you Astron-6.

That being said, however, I question whether the weathered-film look was necessary. A movie doesn’t have to be a grindhouse throwback to be an authentic exploitation flick, and Father’s Day’s status as an authentic, down and dirty exploitation flick is beyond question. It doesn’t evoke a certain time period as much as the timeless mood of a genre. I know that throwbacks are Astron-6's thing, but I kinda wish with this one they would just drop the fake-aging thing and take their spot as a leader of NEW, not retro, exploitation cinema. If anything, Father’s Day feels much more like an 80’s style home video market exploitation flick (epitomized in those days by Troma) than a throwback to those flicks that Hobo and Grindhouse were aping. I personally think that if they were dead set on using fake patina on their film, the kind more associated with VHS, like what was used in the “ASTR-TV” segments, would have served the film better than the Grindhouse style.

Do NOT take my questioning of the “throwback/homage” cinematic device as me saying that I didn’t like the flick. Oh no Cellmates, quite the opposite! I had a freaking blast watching Father’s Day. This is an incredibly fun movie. This flick might be a little too much for those of you with more delicate sensibilities. I, however, am a bit of a sick puppy, which is convenient, ‘cause this is a sick movie. Gorehounds, you’re gonna love this flick. There was actually one scene that made me, the Son of Celluloid, literally cringe. ***SPOILER ALERT*** Then again, I think a man sticking a hypodermic needle into his glans penis before taking a knife to it would make anyone with a dick squirm a little, don’t you? ***END SPOILER ALERT*** We get gut munching, stabbing, evisceration, impalement, shootings, graphic genital mutilation, and an eye cutting that rivals the one in “Un Chien Andalou.” It all looks fantastic too. The gore in this flick is definitely commendable.

If gore isn’t enough for you, there’s rape. There’s lots of rape. This isn’t the kind of rape you’re used to seeing in movies either. We’ve got lots of man on man rape. Not American History X sanitized butt rape either. No, this is full on (and full frontal), just north of hardcore, fat pasty middle aged dude on fat pasty middle aged dude sexual violence. Fuchman’s red rocket of love is definitely on a mission to conquer Uranus. While that’s not exactly something I’d say I “enjoy watching” per se, I’m all in any time someone is doing things onscreen that other filmmakers are afraid to do. Way to shake things up gentlemen. In addition to all of the wang flopping around onscreen, there are plenty of breasts too. Ahab’s sister Chelsea works in a strip club, which becomes a major location in the film complete with all rights and benefits thereof. Apparently heaven is full of topless women as well, but we all knew that already. I mean, it couldn’t be paradise without them, could it?

So far, this sounds like a pretty intense flick with all of extreme gore, ass rape, and gratuitous boobage, huh? Well, the part that I haven’t mentioned yet is that it’s funny as hell. While it has a lot of horror and action elements, I’d say that Father’s Day is a comedy first and foremost. The dialog is absolutely hilarious. It has a great absurdist tone. While the set pieces, action sequences, and gags are the guts of the flick, the heart and soul are the quieter moments where the writing really shines. There’s one scene involving Ahab and Twink slipping past the cops that I’d describe as having a tone of “Airplane mixed with Loony Tunes.” The actors pull off the hilarity perfectly by playing it completely straight. The crux of the cast is the trio of Adam Brooks (Ahab), Conor Sweeney (Twink), and Matthew Kennedy (John Sullivan). They make a great comedic trio with excellent timing and onscreen chemistry. The movie manages to be consistently funny throughout without devolving into being jokey, and there’s no denying that it works. The last time I laughed this hard at a movie was The FP, and before that, um…I couldn’t tell you.

More ingredients than I can go into here factor into this flick being the entertaining ride it is. I already mentioned the central trio, but the performances of Mackenzie Murdock as Chris Fuchman and Amy Groening as Chelsea are fantastic too. The music by Jeremy Gillespie sets the mood perfectly. There is stunt work, particularly in one car chase scene, which was obviously done by the actors themselves. Some of this stuff is extremely dangerous, and I’m sure whether or not it was worth the risk has been debated, but it added a LOT to the scene, and to the film as a whole. I would make a comment about the actors having balls, but we see most of them on screen at some point, so that’s a moot point. One other thing I liked is that the main, obvious story comes to a close with over half an hour left to go in the film. Usually, I can pretty much peg the basic outline of any plot, but at that point, I had absolutely no idea where the flick was going to go from there. Do you know how long it’s been since that happened? In an era where films are increasingly predictable, it was refreshing to have a “what the hell is going to happen now” moment. I do think that last act, which does contain a few of the film’s best moments, drags a little though. It probably could have been trimmed by a couple of minutes. Then again, complaining about pacing in a movie like this is kinda ridiculous. Either way, ending the obvious story arc and completely switching directions was a brilliant move. The ending was great as well.

Random Thought 1: If you wanna make me love a movie, a topless stripper wielding a chainsaw is a great place to start.

Random Thought 2: Brent Steale, who plays Detective Stegal, reminded me a little of a young James Woods.

Random Thought 3: I haven’t watched the MTV Movie Awards in many years, but back when I did, they used to have an award for Best Kiss. If they still do that, the kiss between Ahab and Mary should get it this year.

Astron-6 has a making-of documentary in the works called No Sleep, No Surrender. After seeing Fathar’s Day, I can’t wait to see it. As much of a blast as it was to watch, it had to have been a blast to make. Also, it looks like it will touch on some of the issues with Troma. After another filmmaker recently told me about his/her less than scrupulous dealings with Uncle Lloyd, I’m intrigued to hear their story. You can check the trailer for No Sleep No Surrender out HERE.

Father’s Day is a perverse, gore soaked, eccentric exploitation flick that unequivocally delivers the twisted thrills. It’s easily one of my favorites of the year, and joins Dear God No! and Dead Hooker in a Trunk in the upper echelon of the current neo-exploitation wave. I do think I saw it in an entirely wrong format, however. Astron-6 kindly sent me a private link to view the film, so I watched it on my laptop, but this movie screams to be watched in a theater with a crowd of like minded sickos. I really want to check this out on the big screen. If there is a theatrical screening anywhere remotely close to you, I implore you not to miss this. Two severed thumbs up. Nathan says check it out. Hail the Fuchmanicus!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Review: Nailbiter

Before I get into the review, the first order of business I need to get out of the way is to publicly apologize to Patrick Rea, the director of Nailbiter. I told him that I was gonna review his flick before I went on vacation, but the Atlanta Horror Guide project came up at the last minute and my review schedule got thrown into all kinds of chaos. Sorry about that man.
I was a little apprehensive going into Nailbiter. The last screener I got that basically spelled out in the title how it wanted the audience to feel/react was Cold Creepy Feeling, and that one…well…it blew harder than the gale force winds in this flick. Thankfully, Nailbiter is a really good flick. Horror cinema has a long history of using storms to trap people in a central location where they can be menaced. Nailbiter takes this tradition, blends it with another tried and true horror trope that I particularly enjoy but won’t discuss in the interest of not revealing too much, adds some interesting twists and elements, and delivers a satisfying and effective indie thriller.
Synopsis: The Maguire women, consisting of recovering alcoholic mother Janet, angsty teen daughter Jennifer, mousy bookworm middle child Alice, and sweet little Sally, are off to the airport. Mr. Maguire is returning from a tour of duty in the Middle East, and Janet has decided that nothing is going to stop them from being the first faces he sees when he arrives, including the storms that are rolling in. The ladies brave the foreboding skies and threatening forecasts, which proves foolish when a tornado hits mid-trip, forcing them to take shelter in the storm cellar of a nearby house. The tornado then picks up the house, eventually dropping it on top of a witch in a magical land populated by little peop…wait a minute. Scratch that last sentence. I get my twisters confused. Anyway, the storm passes and the gals find themselves trapped in the cellar when someone topside nails the door shut. When Sally tries to escape through a window, something takes a bite out of her, and it sure doesn’t look like any dog bite. Something is out there, and it has them trapped right where it wants them. Worse than that, they just might not be alone in the cellar…
The first thing that really struck me when watching this flick was the CGI, but not in the way CGI usually does. Regular readers of SOC know that when I bring up CGI, 99.9% of the time it’s not gonna be flattering words. I loathe CGI. I hate CGI as I hate hell and all Montagues. That’s not necessarily always the case, however. I will never condone the use of CGI to do something that can be done practically, because without fail the practical effects will look better. I’m pretty sure Nailbiter’s budget wasn’t quite big enough to hire a tornado though, as I’ve heard that they charge ridiculous rates, so CGI was their only choice. I forgive bad CGI when there is no other way. The thing is, I didn’t have to forgive a damn thing here. That storm looked GREAT! I seriously cannot remember a storm looking that good in a major studio motion picture, much less an independent film. You know it’s gotta be spectacular if I’m raving about how good a flicks CGI is, and folks, it definitely was.
Speaking of the storm, another aspect of this film that warrants special discussion is the lighting. I was particularly impressed by the lighting in the early scenes right before the storm. As anyone who lives in an area that is susceptible to severe storms knows, right before it gets nasty everything takes on a very distinct hazy glow. I have never seen that particular hue of light captured in ANY other movie. That blew me away. It was absolutely perfect. After over 100 years of cinema history, and nearly 20 years of watching every horror flick I can get my hands on, any time I can say “I’ve never seen that in a movie before” it excites me. Bravo. As far as the rest of the lighting goes, I think the way the cellar was lit added a lot to its effectiveness as a setting. At no point is it well lit, leaving shadows everywhere where something could be lurking. The lighting added exponentially to the creep factor. My only qualm about the lighting is that, with the flickering lantern and flashing lightning being a bit overdone, sometimes it felt like the entire second half was filmed under a strobe light.
I dug the fact that a lot of the character development of the ladies in peril was accomplished through the family structure. While we learned a little about the characters individually, Janet especially, their identities were closely interwoven in a very realistic family unit. The sibling and mother/daughter interaction displays the “contentious and sometimes hostile yet loving underneath it all” relationship beautifully. By tying our knowledge of these characters together, the audience views them as a unit. Unlike, say, a Friday the 13th flick where the group of survivors is a loosely connected bunch and one getting knocked off doesn’t profoundly change the group dynamic, each member of the family in Nailbiter is an integral part of a greater whole, making a death mean much more. This was a very smart move on the part of the writers as it amplified the danger, put more at stake, and helped ramp up the tension. Then again, this technique would have fallen flat on its face had the actresses not have been able to pull it off. Luckily all four actresses are up to the task.
***SPOILER ALERT*** Grandma just might be my favorite part of this flick. I’ve always loved the evil Grandma character. Granny being a bad guy takes a beloved, safe source of comfort and completely mindf**ks you with it. I’m not talking about Rabid Grannies style full on monster Maw-Maw. It’s when she just goes about doing Grandma stuff, baking cookies and whatnot, while aiding those in her care in insidious pursuits that it’s particularly chilling. Joicie Appell plays it to a T here. She’s the perfect mix of matronly and menacing. She’s a walking contradiction worthy of one of those Starburst commercials. Mrs. Shurman definitely steals the show in my book.***END SPOILER ALERT***
The story definitely takes the slow burn approach, but it never really drags. The tension is kept high and it builds steadily until a major tonal shift in the third act, when it becomes more action oriented. When the movie picks up speed, it’s sudden and jarring in a good way. You’ve been waiting for the confrontation, but it happens in such a way that you’re not quite ready for it. As far as gore and violence, Nailbiter goes with the “less is more” philosophy. I’m cool with that. I am a gorehound, but a bloodbath isn’t always necessary. What I wish there had been a little more of is the monster, however. The monster is shown piece by piece and in very quick, choppy, shadowy shots. From what is shown, I could tell that there is a really good practical makeup job there. With a creature design that strong, I wish they had shown a little more of it. I’m not suggesting a full on monster mash, but I think one really good “money shot” clear look at the monster could have added to the flick without feeling overdone. It looked too good not to get a chance to fully appreciate.
Nailbiter is an old school type of monster movie with some new school ideas. The cinematography, acting, story, and effects are all very well done. Actually, my only problem is what I feel was a slightly weak reveal, but I can see what they were going for. Overall, it certainly lives up to its name. They also left us with a nice (and refreshingly non-contrived) setup for a sequel. I hope it comes to fruition, because the world of Nailbiter is definitely somewhere I would like to visit again. One and a half severed thumbs up. Nathan says check it out.
Nailbiter’s official website can be found HERE.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The winners of the Theatre Bizarre contest are...

Yes, Cellmates, I know I was supposed to announce this winner two weeks ago. I held off for one reason. At the time I had one copy to give away. I now have 2. Yes, that’s twice the prizes! Does that make up for me being late on this one? Well, screw you too then. Ungrateful little...anyway, without further ado, here are your winners…

First up is Maynard Morrissey from Maynard Morrissey’s Horror Movie Diary. He’s from Austria (not Australia!) and correctly called me on the fact that I forgot to put “Open to US residents only” on this one. I’m a big fan of exploiting loopholes, and Maynard managed to catch me on one, so I’m giving one copy to him.

The second copy goes to Morgan Darkchild. Not only did she offer me food (and I know she can cook), but she shamelessly employed flattery, calling me such things as “Horror God of all Horror Gods” and “the scare master of screams.” Remember kids, flattery will get you everything.

So there you go folks. I’ll be getting in touch with the two of you in the next few days to work out delivery. The rest of you, thanks for entering and stick around because there’s gonna be another killer giveaway coming up before you know it.

Monday, June 11, 2012

SOC is back and playing catch up.

I’m baaaaaaaaaaaaaack! Yeah, don’t all jump for joy at once. Well cellmates, I spent one week at the beautiful locale you see there to the left, and a week of taking care of non-blog business, and I'd say it's about time for SOC to be back in action. I’ll return to my usual reviewing/interviewing/pontificating/rambling ways soon. For the moment, however, lets just play catch up. A lot has gone down while I was away. First of all, I have to show off my finds I made while I was out of town.

In Myrtle Beach, SC, there is a local chain of pawnshops called Dick’s Pawn. I love Dick’s. Any time I’m in town, I hit up all 4 Dicks. In fact, one of my favorite parts of going to Myrtle Beach is Dick’s. Some pawnshops are a pain in the ass to deal with, but Dick’s has never been hard. Ok, I gotta stop with the dick jokes now. I’m starting to sound like the seventh season of Supernatural. Anyways, what I love about Dick’s is that their DVDs are always 2 bucks. Cheap DVDs are like crack to me, there’s no way I can resist. I’d put Cheap DVDs on a short list with (among a couple of others) whiskey, bacon, Slayer, and boobs as the things that make life worth living. Anyway, here’s what I found…

That’s 28 movies for $32. $1.14 a flick. Not bad huh? I think the gems here are Saw 2 (because this edition contains some of Darren Lynn Bouseman’s student films), the two pack of Corpse Master and Satan’s Slave (because it helps with my resolution to see more non Italian/Japanese foreign horror), Evil Breed, The Legend of Samhain (because it plays into a collaboration I’m hoping to do soon with another blog), and the Subspecies 1-3 pack (because…um, I shouldn’t have to explain that one). My favorite thing I bought during the trip, however, I found at a flea market…

Got it for a buck. Hooray for cheap horror memorabilia! Rockin’ with Dokken baby!

Ok, now that I’ve showed off my souvenirs (except for the prison teddy bear, skull covered inflatable mallet, and eyeball golfball, all of which I won at the arcade), unfortunately I have to address some sad news. During SOC’s hiatus the horror/sci-fi/fantasy community suffered a huge loss when Ray Bradbury died. It aggravates me when someone dies and all of a sudden they were everyone’s favorite writer/actor/rock star/whatever, so I am not going to sit here and pretend that I was a huge fan of the man’s work. Personally, aside from the Star Wars trilogy (there is but one trilogy and you WILL NOT say otherwise in my presence) or a little Star Trek (TOS) now and then, sci-fi has to be very strongly spiked with horror to grab me, even moreso in literature than movies. Bradbury didn’t write that style, so I’m not all that well versed in his body of work. I do love Something Wicked This Way Comes though. Sci-fi and fantasy are horror’s brother and sister however (you figure out which is which), so we all feel his loss. He was an ambassador for storytelling in the realm of the fantastic. Who knows how many imaginations that man captured and inspired over his truly illustrious career? For his contributions to the genre, and to storytelling in general, I thank him and I extend my condolences to his family and friends.

Good, the bad news is out of the way. Now on to some cool stuff. While I was gone they announced the cast for Hatchet 3. As you may know, I was not a huge fan of the first Hatchet, but I LOVED Hatchet 2 both because it stood up to the scumbags of the MPAA and because it was just a fun as hell gore fest. I have a feeling the third installment is gonna be just as good, especially when you look at who is in it. Kane Hodder (of course), Danielle Harris, Derek Mears, Sean Whalen, Diane Goldner, JTRO…I mean Jason Trost, and the one I’m most excited about, Caroline Williams! Stretch herself! My favorite “final girl” of all time! She’s not in nearly enough horror flicks dammit. Now I’m REALLY looking forward to this one.

The rest of the news is related to Dear God No. Remember that ad that ran in Fangoria with my quote? Well, it ran in Rue Morgue this month. Then, when I went to the DVD release party, I discovered that I’m quoted on the DVD too. I’m blown away by all this love from the DGN folks. Did I mention that the flick is available as we speak on a features packed DVD or Blu-ray? FOLLOW THIS LINK to get your very own copy. It’s a must own folks. One of the things that initially drew me to the flick was the killer poster by Tom Hodge of Dude Designs, and he’s done it again. The movie hasn’t even been filmed yet, but a mind blowing poster has been created for the sequel, entitled Frankenstein Created Bikers. Check this out…

You can’t handle the badassery!

Yes, I know a lot of other stuff went down in the last 2 weeks, but honestly, that’s all I remember, so I think that gets us pretty much back up to speed right? What? The Theatre Bizarre giveaway? I’ll do that in another post. Anything else? No? Ok good. Sorry for being gone longer than anticipated, but I needed some time to get some issues settled. I promise I won’t be away that long again, um…probably until next summer. Have I mentioned that I hate summer? It’s my least favorite time of the year. I plan on spending the summer doing what I always do, watching horror movies in the AC and waiting for fall to finally come around. What? That’s how you plan to spend your summer too? Groovy, lets do it together, shall we?
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